2) What Happens When We Don’t Obey First.
In the Bible is a true story of parents who “trained” their son to obey last. They trained him to be selfish, demanding, and self-centered. His name was Samson. You may remember him from Bible stories as the man who tore open a bear, had long hair, etc. But long before that, he was a young man, and in our story, we pick up the relationship between he and his parents when he was in his “dating” years.
1 Now Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.” 3 Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” And Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.”
Notice the phrase Samson uses twice, “Get her for me.” His parents try to reason with him, give ideas of other women with a similar faith who are not at war with their people… And Samson’s muscle memory is “GET HER FOR ME.” He has been trained to talk to his parents in a demanding, demeaning way. They have not called him on it when he was young, and surprise, they aren’t calling him on it now. Samson has been trained to “Obey Last, Demand First.” His parents (good people, faithful people, Godly people) have not trained Samson to APPEAL. Instead they trained him to think he can “demand” and after instructions are given, “DEMAND LOUDER!”
We must train our children early and diligently because they need this skill to have good relationships and good work careers later. We catch up with Samson a few months later. He got angry at his finance and stormed off for a few… months. He is returning and speaking to her father.
1 After a while, in the time of wheat harvest, it happened that Samson visited his wife with a young goat. And he said, “Let me go in to my wife, into her room.” But her father would not permit him to go in. 2 Her father said, “I really thought that you thoroughly hated her; ” 3 And Samson said to them, “This time I shall be blameless regarding the Philistines if I harm them!” Then Samson went and caught three hundred foxes; and he took torches, turned the foxes tail to tail, and put a torch between each pair of tails.
So, now, Samson has a father-in-law (or potential one), he comes to him in the same demanding way and says, “Let me go in…” or “Give her to me…” This father says, “You stormed off, I assume you hated her.” How does Samson respond? “Wow, sorry, I was out of line… You are right, I need to apologize?” No, he has never been taught how to respond when he doesn’t like someone’s decision in a Godly and healthy way. Instead he feels justified, “I will be harmless if I go harm people…” Hmmmm? That’s disturbing. This young man, is now cruel to animals, kills people, and destroys property and feels justified. Why? He wasn’t trained to Obey first, AND he doesn’t know how to APPEAL properly when he disagrees.
This is why, many of us as adults, may or may not have kids. Our inability to obey, or obsession with our needs, or our demanding spirit is crushing our relationships. We don’t date someone longer than 2 months, we move from job to job, we refuse to hear our 360 review, show patterns we need to work on. We are not humble or teachable because we’ve trained ourselves to TAKE FIRST, rather than Obey first.
So, if we are going to teach our children to APPEAL, it comes down to this, OBEY FIRST, and ASK QUESTIONS LATER.
III. What Happens When We Ask Questions Later.
Children need to know how to obey first and surrender to the boundaries and structure around them, but then they need too know how to appeal decisions they disagree with. What do I mean?
If you have an employee who generally does what he or she is told right away without excessive argumentation, then one day they call you into the office and say, “Can I ask you a question about this?” And they follow that up with, “Can I share some concerns I have?” How will you respond? Emotionally you will -as their boss- feel like they are characterized by “obeying first” and have come to you, not rebelliously or to be ornery, but with a fair question? If on the other hand, you have an employee that hears your strategic initiative and pushes back on every statement, is found gossiping and undermining you after meetings, and powers up… How open are you to their feedback?
Recently a staff member called me and had concerns with another staff member. They had observed a behavior and were convinced that this staff member was not compassionate or caring. I am on the phone being triangulated rather than this person talking directly to the person they have a concern with… SO this became a “teaching” and parenting moment as the boss. I instructed this person to 1) Call the person directly and share the concern. 2) I told them to presume the best, rather than the worst. 3) I gave clear example of how to start the conversation with QUESTIONS. “Can I talk to you about something?” “Did you know that this happened yesterday?” I got an email the next day from this staff member saying, “Wow! Was I wrong about what I thought happened…” The staff that was confronted was very pleased that I honored them by not gossiping and teaching staff how to “Appeal and confront” in a healthy way.
When you confront someone…when your kids confront you or argue with you…teach them to USE QUESTIONS. When they launch into a “I can’t believe you won’t do this…. ” Stop them, and say, “Let’s start over. Begin with a question… “Dad, Can I tell you why I don’t like this?” “Mom, can I ask you a question?” Will they roll their eyes at you? Sure. Probably. But you are training them to know how to appeal and talk about disagreements. You are building up their future marriage right now at 16.
Dr. Cloud tells this story, “I was counseling a couple who were having marriage problems. He asked them each about their behavior.” “WHY DO YOU WITHDRAW FROM HIM?” he asked the wife. “Because he yells at me,” she said. “Why do you yell?” he asked the husband. “Because she withdraws from me.” Dr. Cloud said, “How long do you think this can go on?” He used a question to help them see that they both saw themselves as victims. They can’t control their own behaviors. They are victims of their impulses. Children need to learn “I made me do it” not “She or He made me do it.”
How can we help our kids? In his book BOUNDARIES, Cloud tells the story of Billy. “Mom, I’m going down to Joey’s to play hockey. See ya later.” “No Billy, you can’t go. It’s time to do your homework.” “Come on Mom! Everyone’s going. I can do my homework later.” “Billy, I understand you want to go, but we agreed that if you went swimming, you would work on your homework.” Billy says, “Yeah, but I could do it after dinner.” Mom replies, “An agreement is an agreement. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.” Billy replies, “You’re just stupid. You don’t understand anything. You’re a big, fat, stupid.”
Here is how Dr. Cloud recommends we respond as parents:
“Billy, I understand that you’re really disappointed, but that’s not the way to talk to me. Calling me ‘stupid’ is not okay. It hurts my feelings. It is okay to be sad or mad, but I won’t allow name calling. I understand that you’re upset. But when you call me stupid, how do you think that makes me feel?” (Wait for an answer so he has time to think about how another person feels.)
“Billy, I hear that you’re ticked, and when you talk to me more respectfully, I’ll be glad to listen. If you are upset about something, tell me in a different way and start with ‘Mom, can I ask you something…’”
“Billy, I’d like for you to apologize for what you said and try again. Why don’t you ask for forgiveness and help me with setting the table…”
When correction is followed by an apology, sufficient self-correction, and repentance, the child learn respect. If the child does not apologize, repent, and correct himself, or if this is a pattern, consequences should follow. This parent didn’t get all upset, let the child push her buttons, instead explained the problem, the solution, and gave a chance for Billy to learn to apologize, learn how to obey first, and how to ask questions later. This is SOOOO important. Kids will make mistakes. Small Ones and Big Ones. So, we must make U-Turns a part of life. When kids don’t obey first, we teach them how to make a U-Turn and start over. When kids don’t ask questions later, but rather demand… We model how to make a U-Turn.
CONCLUSION: We want to make forgiving, confronting, and saving face as easy as possible. Rather than making admitting you are wrong, a battle of wills, we want to make it as pleasant as possible to surrender when a child doesn’t agree. For small children that means after a confrontation, we go do something fun. We tell them how proud we are that they obeyed, even though they didn’t agree. We try to make graciously admitting their fault as EASY AS POSSIBLE. We celebrate respect. We celebrate humility. We celebrate the surrender of our “me focus” approach to life.
ADORATION: God is the perfect parent. He parents us the same way. He teaches us to OBEY FIRST and ASK QUESTIONS HUMBLY LATER. He allows us to experience the consequences of our disobedience. When Samson’s parents’ role faded out, God’s role as parent took over. And God allowed Samson to lie, sleep around, be violent, and then feel the full weight of the consequences of his decisions, and those consequences were terrible. He was enslaved. He lost his strength. He was used like a mule to crush grain by his enemies, the Philistines. He felt the full and complete pain of living a life of disobedience. He lost relationships. He lost his health. His eyesight. Everything. God had not abandoned him through. God loved Samson so much, He had to teach him to Appeal and Surrender well. God had a plan for Samson to do great things for others. But Samson’s whole life was so self-centered, he never thought of others. Until one day…one day, after years of pain, hurt, consequences… Samson’s heart is softened toward God. On that day, he looks up to God humbly and says, “I’m ready to obey first.” I lost my eyes, but finally I see the plight of others in my life. I see my people who have been tortured and enslaved by the Philistines. God, if you can, and if you will, please use me. I am willing to die to help others. And God pulls Samson close. God allows him to surrender well into the grace of a God of 100 chances. God uses Samson to free his people. Samson died free. Free from his addictions. Free from his rebellious spirit. Free from his pride. Because of God’s forgiveness. God knew that one day he would come to earth in the person of Jesus, and he would teach people to obey first (but he also knew they wouldn’t). He asked them to admit they had rebelled. To own it. To admit it. He taught us how to surrender well by asking him for forgiveness. To ask him to forgive us of our “self-centric” lives. To invite his son to change us and make us someone different. God parents us the way He wants us to parent our kids.
OBEY FIRST. ASK QUESTIONS LATER.
For a free, first session of Godonomics: http://www.godonomics.com/watch-session-1